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« Sent to Proclaim the Good News, Part 3 | Home | Introduction »

The Great God Debate

By Mark D. Roberts | Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Today I’m participating in what Hugh Hewitt has called “The Great God Debate.” For three hours on Hugh’s syndicated radio program I’ll be debating with Christopher Hitchens, author of the recent book: god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I don’t know how great the debate will be, but I hope I can honor the greatness of God both through what I say and in how I say it.

Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be blogging on Hitchens’s book and on the issues from our debate. (Yes, I’m going to interrupt my series on the mission of God in order to do this.) One of the first things I’ll do is to put up links to the resources I mention in the debate (books, articles, etc.). Since I haven’t done the debate yet, I can’t put up the links now.

The one resource I expect to mention is my newest book, Can We Trust the Gospels? Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This book is not out yet, but Amazon promises to be mailing in on Thursday. So we’ll see. You can order a copy of this book from Amazon by clicking here. Ironically, or perhaps providentially, depending on where you’re coming from philosophically, Amazon has paired my book with Hitchens’ god is Not Great, as you’ll see on my Amazon page.

You can get an advance look at the first two chapters of the book from the Crossway Books website. Click here to view the PDF of the first two chapters.

Now, if you’ll pardon a good bit of shameless promotion, I’ll print some of the endorsements I’ve received for Can We Trust the Gospels? Many thanks to those who read this book and offered their kind words.

“Mark Roberts has produced what has long been needed: a highly read- able and compelling account of why Christians can indeed trust the Gospels. Dr. Roberts is a formidable scholar whose reputation is very high among academics. He is a skilled writer and teacher. He is also an innovative force in the world of Christian apologetics, among the very first to see the potential for blogging as a formidable means of pursuing the Great Commission.

“I have had Dr. Roberts on my radio show more than any other theolo- gian or pastor, for several reasons. First, he has been a very good friend for a long time. But much more important is his ability to communicate and the knowledge he has accumulated through his three decades of serious and thorough study of the Gospels and the scholarship around them. Whenever a major controversy erupts that touches on the Christian faith, I call on Dr. Roberts.

“Can We Trust the Gospels? is quite simply the best effort I have ever read by a serious scholar to communicate what scholars know about the Gospels and why that should indeed encourage us to trust them and thus to trust Jesus Christ.”

—Hugh Hewitt, radio talk show host, author, blogger, and Professor of Law at Chapman University School of Law

“There is a crisis of confidence about the Gospels, fueled by sensational claims about supposedly new Gnostic Gospels with a ‘revised standard’ view of Jesus. With a pastor’s insight but a scholar’s critical acumen, Mark Roberts provides a readable guide to answering the question, Can we trust the Gospels? As Mark makes clear, the earliest and best evidence we have for the real Jesus is the canonical Gospels, not the much later Gnostic ones.”

—Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary, author of What Have They Done with Jesus?

“What F. F. Bruce did for my generation of students, Mark Roberts has done for the current generation. Any student who asks me if our Gospels are reliable will be given this book, and then I’ll buy another copy for the next student!”

—Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

“Can We Trust The Gospels? caught me completely by surprise. While I knew a scholar of Mark Roberts’s caliber could convince skeptics the Gospels are reliable, I never expected to have my own preconceptions uprooted and replaced with a more solid trust in these biblical texts. This book not only makes a compelling case for trusting the Gospels, it illuminates the creative ways in which God worked to bring us His Word. Roberts’s brilliant little book deserves to be widely read by both skeptics and believers.”

—Joe Carter, blogger ( and Director of Communications for the Family Research Council

Topics: Gospels |

9 Responses to “The Great God Debate”

  1. Steve Norris Says:
    June 5th, 2007 at 9:22 pm


    Bring a copy of the book to lunch on Friday. I will reimburse. I will buy lunch. Groovy!

  2. Robert Jago Says:
    June 5th, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Dr. Roberts,

    I appreciated your effort on the Hugh Hewitt show and your debate with Christopher Hitchens. One thing you said confused me.

    While refuting Hitchens you referred to ‘Acts of God’. You said those things that your insurance company referred to as ‘Acts of God’ are in fact just ‘Nature’.

    I’ve never heard a Christian talk about a dichotomy between God and Nature. Would you please explain this dichotomy?

  3. Mark D. Roberts Says:
    June 5th, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Robert: Sure. God created the natural world, but is separate from the world. So things can happen in nature that aren’t necessarily acts of God. God doesn’t send every snowflake. Clouds do that when it’s cold. This is especially true given the fact that nature is fallen and “in travail,” which means that things happen in nature which are not what God had orginially intended, though everything that happens is still encompassed by God’s overall will. Does this help?

  4. Robert Jago Says:
    June 6th, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Yes, that makes it clearer. I didn’t realize that nature had ‘fallen’ with man. Thank you for your answer.

  5. Naughty but Clever Hitch: An Illicit Love « Strange Monkey Doll Says:
    June 6th, 2007 at 1:14 am

    […] I haven’t actually heard it, but it looks like Christopher Hitchens has cleaned Mark Roberts clock, wrist-watch, alarm clock and other household timepieces on Hugh Hewitt’s show today. […]

  6. Fred Says:
    June 6th, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    I did not listen to the entire three programs, but I was a tad disappointed with the lack of challenging you gave to Hitchens. As soon as he opened his mouth and proclaimed a moral judgment against God and religion he exposed the disconnect between who he is as a creature created in the image of God and the irrational view of naturalistic atheism he has chosen to excuse away his obligation to submit to his creator. Atheism has no justification for making moral proclamations, yet Hitchens repeatedly appealed to them as he attempted to make his case against God.

    You should have seized upon this and not let him go until he recognized his folly.

    Curious if you have seen Doug Wilson’s debate with Hitchens at the Christianity Today online site. Wilson hammers him well on this point and Hitchens has no response. Its embarrassing.

    I would suggest reading the interchanges between the two. It certainly would improve your criticisms of Hitchens and atheism in general.


    You could

  7. Susan Says:
    June 9th, 2007 at 10:28 am

    There’s not much that can be said to try to convince someone that God really exists and that what is proclaimed as truth in the Bible really is true if that person hasn’t decided to make the “leap of faith”. It’s the way God set it up. It’s about faith. Once He has made Himself known, there’s no denying His existence and since He works differently in each Christian’s life, it’s impossible to convince someone to believe based on your own story with God. I think that you can make that person yearn for that which requires the faith leap, and I think that’s the point behind our testimony. Until the leap has been made, people will take all sorts of positions about God that are sensible and are difficult to refute. In this day and age, believing in something that’s supernatural is a difficult task. We’ve all become such realists. The “leap” can take awhile… God will move in the life that seeks, but in His own time.

    I suppose that was the moment that I actually felt sorry for Christopher Hitchens. The moment when he said how silly it was for God to have proclaimed that “those who seek will find”. Hitchens said (I paraphrase) ” Of course one will find it, if one seeks it” - in other words, we will (obviously) find it, for no other reason than that we sought it. Hence, his observation that religion and God are invented by the human believers. So long as he is convinced of this - seeking makes you a fool, knocking on the door produces the “someone” on the other side, he’ll continue to miss all the blessings and guidance God offers in this life and the promise of being in His presence in His kingdom to come.

    I don’t blame Hitchens. He just doesn’t have any faith and the truth is that “religion” has a lot to be ashamed of. And there lies the rub. Most of us who have made the leap and who have developed a personal relationship with our God realize that it is the very “religious” part of it that can become the emphasis and when it does, the relationship is diminished and the message becomes our own. When that happens we give the Christopher Hitchens of the world all the evidence they need to make their atheistic points. For this, we will be held responsible.

    Thank you, Mark, for doing your best to speak the truth and not get into a slugfest with Hitchens. You represented us well and did a good job of not excusing the horrible things that have been done in the name of God. You gave the other side of the story and I think that was the point. My only disappointment was in Hugh’s moderation. He didn’t limit the time on Hitchen’s responses as well as I would have preferred. I know he is a difficult person to stop. I actually like him and think he’s very articulate and interesting.

  8. K.C. Says:
    June 9th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Just got my amazon confirmation today to receive it between 6/18-6/20…Hey Steve! If I write a book will you buy me lunch???? Looking forward to the book Mark!!!

  9. Matt Dabbs Says:
    June 19th, 2007 at 9:00 am

    I posted on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed two questions

    1) Are the Gospel’s reliable?
    2) Do I have to be your student for you to make good on that comment?

    No reply yet! :)

    Sounds like you did a great job on the book. Keep it up.


Thanks for your willingness to make a comment. Note: I do not moderate comments before they are posted, though they are automatically screened for profanities, spam, etc., and sometimes the screening program holds comments for moderation even though they're not offensive. I encourage open dialogue and serious disagreement, and am always willing to learn from my mistakes. I will not delete comments unless they are extraordinarily rude or irrelevant to the topic at hand. You do need to login in order to make a comment, because this cuts down on spam. You are free to use a nickname if you wish. Finally, I will eventually read all comments, but I don't have the time to respond to them on a consistent basis because I've got a few other demands on my time, like my "day job," my family, sleep, etc.

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